Scientists at war over Government funding

An unseemly spat has broken out between two of the most distinguished bodies representing Britain's scientists and engineers over where the cuts should fall in the forthcoming review of the Government's science budget.

The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) has broken with the unwritten rule of not directly criticising another scientific discipline by suggesting that maths and physics get an unfair amount of government money compared to engineering and technology.

The suggestion, made in the RAE's official submission to the Government's spending review, contradicts the advice of the equally distinguished Royal Society, which has privately intimated that the academy's suggestions are "unhelpful" in furthering the case for protecting the science budget.

In its submission, the RAE also criticises the funding allocated to particle physics, much of which is spent on the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) in Geneva, which makes "a lower contribution to the intellectual infrastructure of the UK compared to other disciplines".

The RAE submission says: "Although particle physics research is important it makes only a modest contribution to the most important challenges facing society today, as compared with engineering and technology where almost all the research is directly or indirectly relevant to wealth creation."

Lord Browne, the president of the Royal Academy of Engineering and former chief executive of BP, believes that science funding in Britain needs to be "rebalanced". He would like to see funding concentrated on activities that contribute to the economy within the short to medium term, rather than the sort of blue-skies, basic research carried out by many of the fellows at the Royal Society just a few doors away in Carlton House Terrace, presided over by Lord Rees, a distinguished Cambridge cosmologist.

"It is not suggested that those subjects where research funding is reduced should disappear. However, the country cannot afford to invest as much in such areas as it presently does and, arguably, the needs for solutions to the fascinating problems that lie in some areas of basic science is not urgent," the RAE's submission states.

The Royal Society's submission to the Government does not identify possible areas for cuts but argues for a steady maintenance of science funding overall, with the Research Councils left to decide funding priorities. "Any cuts must be administered carefully so that they do not cause lasting damage and can be reversed when the public finances allow," the Royal Society says.

The difference in opinion between the academies re-opens the old wounds dividing science and engineering that were meant to have been healed when they were brought under the one roof of a joint research council nearly 30 years ago.

Brian Cox, a particle physicist at Manchester University who also works at Cern, said he was surprised to see the comments in the RAE's submission but does not believe it marks a deeper divide between the disciplines.

"You tend to get rivalry between the grandees. I don't see rivalry at my level, at the mid-level of people who in many ways are actually doing the science and engineering," Dr Cox said.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

**Primary Teachers Needed Urgently in Southport**

£80 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: **Due to an increase in dema...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Nursery Assistant/Nurse all cheshire areas

£7 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: We are a large and successful recrui...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London